One of my favorite films is Kiki’s Delivery Service by Japanese filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki. It’s been in regular rotation since my daughters were young. The animated film follows the story of a young witch (Kiki) who, according to witch tradition, must leave her family for a year when she turns 13 and prove that she can make it on her own in a town that doesn’t have another witch. She moves to a small city, finds a room above a small bakery, and becomes a delivery girl for a bakery, flying breads and other parcels around town on her broomstick. Along the way, she makes friends, overcomes obstacles, and, in the movie’s climax, uses her powers in a daring rescue. A great movie.
Throughout the film, Kiki meets older girls and women who could serve as visions of her future self. A slightly older witch girl returning from her year on her own, a single woman living by herself and dedicating her life to art, a young mother running a bakery, an elderly grandmother…these and other women enter Kiki’s life at various points, offering potential previews of the directions that her life could take. Some of them are role models and mentors, while others simply present a particular way of life that Kiki may or may not want to pursue. As the movie proceeds, she also meets younger girls, who look up to Kiki herself as a potential role model and cause Kiki to see herself in a different light.
We need to see ourselves in a continuum of younger and older friends and acquaintances, in order to understand our place in life and in others’ lives. Kiki encounters these women and girls from different generations as she goes about her everyday work in the film’s fictional city. Do we have the same opportunity to meet people from generations before and after us? Continue reading Our Need for Other Generations
A few weeks ago, I listening to a sermon by my friend Kenny Benge, pastor of St. Johns Anglican Church in Franklin, Tennessee. Towards the end, Kenny spoke on the subject of our purpose in life and read the following quote from the English Puritan William Perkins:
Concerning children: it is the duty of parents to make choice of fit callings for them, before they apply them to any particular condition of life. And that they may judge rightly what callings their children are fit for, they must observe two things in them: first, their inclination; secondly, their natural gifts—And here all parents must be warned that the neglect of this duty is a great and common sin—
— William Perkins, A Treatise of the Vocations (PDF)
When we think about callings, we tend to focus on our own calling, the process of discovering it and then fulfilling it. Perhaps we are part of a particularly self-absorbed generation, or perhaps this is simply human nature to think of ourselves first and others second. Rarely do we think about calling in terms of helping someone else find their calling.
Leading up to Mother’s Day, I’ve seen several articles that deal with the topic of mothering as a calling, either as a calling in itself, as part of a woman’s larger set of callings, or as a circumstance of life apart of any notion of “calling.” Never having been a mother, I won’t address that vocation. As a parent, however, this statement from Perkins caught me up short: Am I helping my children find their callings? How could I even begin to do that? Continue reading Helping Your Children Find Their Callings
In 2013, Salon’s Andrew Leonard revealed that novelist Robert Clark Young had been editing Wikipedia for years in a systematic campaign to downplay the achievements of other writers and make himself look better. Young deleted references to prizes that others had won, removed positive comments about their work, and reduced the length of their bibliographies. In several cases, it appears that Young had quarrelled with the targeted novelists in the past, and that he thought that he deserved the acclaim that they had received. None of this effort actually made his own writing better or changed the accomplishments of other novelists; it only made Young look better by comparison. In other words, Young’s work was motivated by envy.
This is hard to write, but I have struggled with envy for the past few years. Not with everything: seeing someone with a nicer car, a nicer house, or nicer clothes rarely makes me feel much of anything. And the accomplishments of strangers don’t effect me much. But if I see that someone I know has been published in a prestigious magazine, been appointed to a high-profile role, or received some sort of public recognition, I feel a stab of resentment.
That should have been me. What makes them so special? They don’t deserve that.
It’s an ugly, poisonous reaction. It has been included in the Seven Deadly Sins for good reason. Envy is the darker cousin of discontentment, because it’s accompanied by resentment toward others and a desire to have what belongs to them.
Why Envy Is So Destructive
Envy blinds us to our blessings. When we envy, we focus on what others have and what we lack, rather than taking stock of the many good things we have received. Envy may be a particularly easy sin to commit in the social media age, when we can so easily review the most post-worthy achievements of our network of friends and acquaintances. So far as I’m aware, there is no social network dedicated to reflecting on the good things that we already have in our lives. Envy, though, predates social media; it has always been more tempting to covet the possessions of others than to give thanks for our own. Continue reading When Envy Invades Your Vocation